‘No Rain, No Harvest, No Food’: Impacts of Droughts on Undernutrition among Children Aged under Five in Ethiopia

Anna Dimitrova
Raya Muttarak, Wittgenstein Centre for Demography and Global Human Capital, International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)

Chronic seasonal crop and livestock loss due to heat stress and rainfall shortages can pose a serious threat to human health, especially in sub-Saharan Africa where subsistence and small-scale farming dominate. Young children, in particular, are susceptible to undernutrition when households experience food insecurity because nutritional deficiencies affect their growth and development. Whilst climate change can potentially pose serious health impacts on children, the evidence is inconclusive and rather limited to small-scale local contexts. Furthermore, little is known about the differential impacts of climatic shocks on health of population subgroups. This study therefore aims to investigate the impacts of climate variability on child health using data from three nationwide Demographic and Health Surveys for Ethiopia conducted in 2005, 2011 and 2016 (n=31,096). Chronic and acute undernutrition, measured as stunting, wasting and underweight for children aged under five, is used as a health indicator. Climate variability is measured by the Standardised Precipitation Evapotranspiration Index (SPEI). The results show a negative relationship between SPEI and stunting and underweight. Children exposed to droughts in utero or during infancy are particularly vulnerable to drought-induced stunting and underweight. The climate impacts vary with population subgroups whereby boys and children whose mothers have lower level of education and living in the rural area where households are engaged in agricultural activities are more vulnerable to drought exposure. This suggests that nutritional intervention should target these particularly vulnerable groups of children.

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 Presented in Session P3. Poster Session Migration, Economics, Environment, Methods, History and Policy